Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spatchcocked Spatchcock

“Spatchcock” refers to the method of cutting open a whole chicken, so that it sits flat in a pan, or on a grill. However, it wasn’t always the highly amusing verb it is today. 

Originally, it was a highly amusing noun used to describe a small, young chicken. Since these tender birds were usually butterflied to cook faster and more evenly over the coals, “spatchcock” became the culinary term for this technique. So, if you use a small, young chicken like I did, then you’re actually spatchcocking a spatchcock, which is about the most entertaining answer ever to the question, “What are you doing for dinner?”

Above and beyond how fun it is to use in casual conversation, the technique really does work beautifully for grilling a whole chicken. Once you remove the backbone, and set free the sternum from its covering of cartilage, you'll have a bird that will cook quicker and more evenly. It also looks pretty damn cool.

If you don’t own a sturdy pair of kitchen shears, then I hope this video inspires you to go out and get this must-have piece of equipment. They make this technique incredibly fast and easy, and you can also use them to completely section a whole chicken into serving pieces, as we showed in this video demo.

Anyway, I hope you pick up some spatchcock soon, and give this whole spatchcocking thing a try. I’ll be showing a recipe I did using this technique in a future video, so stay tuned for that, and as always, enjoy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fig Brulee with Burrata Cheese – Let’s Burn the Top of Some Fruit!

I love a crème brulee as much as the next portly chef, but when you consider the custard base is egg yolk-thickened, sweetened heavy cream, it’s not something you should be eating more than occasionally. But, why waste such a great technique when it can be applied to other things, like fresh fruit?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I chose figs here because I received a generous sampling from the California Fig Advisory Board, and decided this would be a wonderful way to enjoy them. As I mention in the video, this technique also works on fresh banana, a roasted peach or apple, and basically any tender fruit you can slice and sprinkle with sugar.

While this will work with white sugar, the Demerara sugar you see in the video seems to work best. It’s a type of raw brown sugar, and pretty much the same thing as you get in those little, brown “Sugar in the Raw” packages at the coffee shop. Let me be clear – I’m not suggesting you borrow a few of those to use for this recipe. That would be as illegal, as it would be free and convenient.

These were amazing with the fresh, creamy burrata, but any style cheese plate would benefit mightily from the shiny, sexy fruit. If cheese isn’t your thing, go grab a pint of vanilla ice cream, forget all about that sweet-savory thing, and just go full dessert.

Anyway, thanks to California Fig Advisory Board for inspiring the recipe, and if you want more info on how awesome figs are, you can check out their homepage here. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hello from Dunsmuir, California!

Just a quick note to let you know we're up in beautiful Dunsmuir, California celebrating my father-in-law Al's 70th birthday. We'll be back at it Monday, so pardon any delays in responding to comments and emails. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and as always, enjoy!

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Mayo Method Steak Sauce Formula – Looks Like Math, Tastes Like Magic

When I need a fast and easy sauce for grilled steaks, I love to use this sort of mayonnaise-based condiment. As I explain in the video, the basic formula is mayo + salt + spice + acid + herb. I don’t think I’ve ever made the exact same one twice, which is not surprising when you realize how many combinations are possible.

I’m not calling this aioli because it doesn’t contain any garlic, but you can if you want to, since nowadays any flavored mayonnaise is called an aioli. That reminds me, this would be really good with garlic.

By the way, don’t let the name fool you; this is great on so many things besides steak. In fact, making up a ramekin to keep in the fridge is not a bad idea at all. It makes a super sandwich spread, a stellar salad dressing starter, and a vegetable dip so good, it will make you forget how much you hate raw broccoli. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for my Rosemary Harissa Mayonnaise:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp anchovy oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Harissa or other hot chili paste
2 tsp minced rosemary

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Good Morning Sausage! Pork, Fennel, and Orange Breakfast Sausage Patties

I know I say this a lot, but I can’t believe I haven’t done this recipe yet! There are few things as easy and amazing as homemade breakfast sausage, and this is my favorite formula.

The key here is to get some properly ground fresh pork from a real live butcher. The ground pork in the meat case at the supermarket is not going to be coarse enough, not to mention the fact that the meat they used was probably chosen based on it’s inability to be sold in any other form.

Tell the butcher you want a couple pounds of freshly ground pork shoulder, and be sure to use the term “sausage grind.” This means a very coarse grind, and an adequate fat content. Anything less than 30-40% fat is just not going to make a great sausage patty.

Above and beyond the meat, almost anything goes when making sausage patties. I think the fennel, nutmeg, and orange zest (an idea I borrowed from my uncle, and sausage master, Bill) really gives this a breakfast-y flavor, but if you’re not into those ingredients, use what you like.

Lastly, the overnight refrigeration really makes a big difference. All those big flavors need time to meld together, and besides, by making this in the evening for the next morning’s meal, you’ve pretty much assured yourself of some quality sausage-related dreams. Enjoy!

1 pound ground pork
1 tsp kosher salt (1/2 to 3/4 tsp of table salt), or to taste
1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs blend (mine has thyme, rosemary, sage, and oregano)
2-3 tsps fennel seeds, lightly crushed
2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
pinch of fresh nutmeg

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fried Stuffed Squash Blossoms – So Good, You’ll Have Them Standing!

I try to stay as seasonal as possible when choosing which food wishes to film, so I’m pushing it a little bit here with these goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms. 

They’re generally thought of as more of a springtime thing, but are available into fall. In fact, if I’m remembering my past zucchini growing experiences correctly, the hearty vines seemed to produce blossoms right up until the first frost.

You can substitute cream cheese for the goat if you’re one of them fromage wusses, but the tang of the goat cheese makes it for me (at least use mascarpone if you’re going to desecrate my recipe). I like to add a little of another melty-type cheese just for fun, and here I went with a Arti Gasna, a Basque sheep’s milk cheese. It was amazing.

The batter is ultra-light and absorbs virtually no oil. You are welcome to use club soda or a light beer for the batter, but I had neither and think cold water works perfectly anyway. 

You’ll notice me using self-rising flour, because I had it, and it really does work beautifully. If you need to make your own it’s: 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

This is one of those recipes that is best eaten standing in the kitchen at a party. This needs to be done in small batches to be enjoyed in all its glory. You can stuff them ahead of time, of course, and then in the middle of the party, heat up the oil and start frying. Serve a few guests at a time as they wander in and out of the kitchen, and see what happens. Spoiler alert: people love them and think you’re awesome. Enjoy!

For the batter:
2 parts self-rising flour
1 part cornstarch
enough cold water to form a pancake-like batter consistency
For the blossoms (for 12):
12 squash blossoms
3/4 cup soft goat cheese
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup shredded gruyere, cheddar, manchego, or any other firm cheese
black pepper and cayenne to taste
vegetable oil for frying

View the complete recipe

Coming Soon: Fried Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Getting Overexpose by Hungry Nation

When my friends at Hungry Nation were over here filming my “Fresh Five” secret ingredients, they also forced me, under threat of severe physical injury, to do an interview called a “Meet & Eat.” I spend most of my free time thinking of ways to avoid going on camera, so I’m really never comfortable (or very good) doing these things, but since they did such a great job on the production, and took the time to put this together for me, I feel the least I can do is show it off here. I’ve also included the full Mahi Mahi Ceviche video below. Enjoy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Crazy Basil Peach Black Pepper Parmigiano-Reggiano Cobbler that Captured My Heart

This unusual basil, peach, black pepper, Parmesan cobbler recipe started out as an innocent experiment making individual-sized cobblers, but somehow spun out of control into weird and wonderful new directions.

I was thinking about a cheese Danish, so I grated some Parmigiano-Reggiano into the batter. I was thinking about Gougères, so I added some freshly ground black pepper as well. I was thinking about a peach and basil sorbet I had one time, and decided that some of the sweet aromatic herb seemed perfectly appropriate.

The result was one of the more interesting and delicious desserts I’ve eaten in a long time. The flavors are subtle, but identifiable. I love, love, loved it. It may sound a little savory, but it was plenty sweet enough, and would make a memorable end to any late summer meal. I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Note Regarding Self-Rising Flour: As we said in the regular peach cobbler post, it is recommended you go out and get some self-rising flour. You can make it yourself, by adding baking powder and salt to all-purpose flour, but for whatever reason, it just doesn't seem work as well.

Two 10-oz ramekins with 2 tsp melted butter in each
For the batter:
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup self-rising flour
2/3 cup milk
1 tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
pinch of black pepper
For the peaches:
1 large peach, peeled, pitted, sliced into 10-12 slices
2 tbsp sugar
2-3 torn or sliced basil leaves
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp water

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Coming Soon: Crazy Cobblers and Secret Steak Sauces

These incredibly tasty mini peach cobblers feature ingredients that will shock and amaze.
Get ready to experience the magic of last minute, mayonnaise-based steak sauces.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gumbo a Go Go – Duck, Andouille Sausage, Smoked Pork Hock, Gulf Shrimp and Langoustine Gumbo

It’s not easy to pry gumbo-making secrets from a cook in New Orleans, but you should have better luck if you slip them some truth serum, in the form of several well-made sazeracs. 

This particular gumbo, featuring duck, andouille sausage, smoked pork hock, gulf shrimp, and langoustine, was inspired by my recent trip to New Orleans, where I sampled a half-dozen varieties.

One rye whiskey-induced tip was to cook the famous Cajun roux in some duck fat instead of the more common and mundane vegetable oil. The roux is the soul of the gumbo and one of the challenges of this recipe is giving the fat and flour enough time to turn into that deep brick red-brown color.

My little trick here is to add a couple extra spoons of flour after the roux is browned. The dark roux gives the gumbo its signature flavor, but it doesn’t have much thickening power. I just cooked it a couple minutes, and then stirred in the stock.

Another tweak is using pickled okra instead of fresh or frozen. This particular perversion was born out of necessity rather than some brilliant thought on my part. Of course, if this technique catches on, that story will change. The pickled okra gave the gumbo a great flavor and added a little bit of acidity, which is always welcome in something this substantial.

This can be made with hundreds of different combinations of smoked meats, game, poultry, and seafood; and in my opinion, the more the merrier. As usual, I’d love to hear about any variations you may come up with. As you’ll see, the procedure is pretty straightforward, although you’re talking about a full day’s project. This is a dish that takes time, but I still hope you give it a try. Enjoy!

2 duck legs
1 tbsp vegetable oil, more as needed
1 cup flour, plus 2 tbsp for second addition
6 cups chicken broth
1 pound andouille sausage
1 large onion, chopped
4 green onions chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup diced peppers (any combination of sweet and hot)
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 smoked pork hock
2 cups water, or as needed
1 cup sliced okra, fresh, frozen or pickled
1 pound gulf shrimp
1 pound crawfish tail meat or langoustine
rice to garnish

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lettuce Entertain You and Get to Know a Farmer

This quick and dirty video recipe for grilled romaine hearts was shot on location at Tanimura & Antle, a family-owned lettuce farm we toured as part of the Get to Know a California Farmer field trip Michele and I just returned from in Carmel, CA.

The event was to introduce their website and, as the name implies, help us get to know a farmer, and that's what we did. We got a fascinating look into how lettuce gets from their farm to your table. Brian Antle, the farm’s Harvest Manager, ran the tour, and it was a joy to hear him talk with such pride about what his and the Tanimura family had created from this land. 

After the tour we were treated to a wonderful lunch showing off some of the farm’s famous foliage. The grilled romaine salad you’ll see in the video was a big hit, but we also had some beautiful pizzas, as you can see below. It always feels special to eat produce that was just picked hours before.

You’ll also see a short video I did showing how the lettuce goes from dirt to final packaging on this slow-rolling mobile processing plant. You’ll have to pardon the dirty lens, as I hadn’t planned on filming in the field, and never checked it. I believe the smudge is gumbo, but there’s really no way to tell for sure. Don't let that deter you, or you'll miss a cameo by social media guru, Jay Baer, on a bed of lettuce.

After lunch we got to tour Naturipe Farms, one of the largest berry producers in the state. Our guide, Tom, did a great job of explaining all the challenges that go into growing berries, especially strawberries. I learned that organic doesn't mean that no pesticides are used. They just need to be certified pesticides, and are often the same ones used in conventional farming. The highlight for me was his explaining how fish meal is regularly used to fertilize organic strawberries, unbeknownst to most vegans we assumed.

Anyway, it was a really fun trip, and I want to thank Adfarm and Get to Know a California Farmer for inviting us. Also, huge thanks to the farmers who shared their stories and delicious products with us. For more information on Get to Know a California Farmer, please check out their website! It's a fantastic way to connect directly with the people growing the food you put on your tables every day.

They’re also running a sweepstakes on the Facebook page where you could win $10,000 worth of groceries. It’s only open to California residents, and ends soon, so get over there and check it out. Enjoy!

Grilled Romaine Salad

How Lettuce is Harvested

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chicken Satay Burger 1.0

Hello from beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea, California! Michele and I are here to tour a couple family farms as guests of Hopefully, I’ll have some photos and more info to share when I return to San Francisco on Sunday evening, but in the meantime I wanted to post this experimental chicken satay burger video.

I’ve been thinking about how to do a chicken burger using some of the same flavors found in Thai-style chicken satay, and this was my first attempt. I thought it was pretty good, and benefited from some seasoning adjustments, as you’ll hear. I think the concept is solid, but I’ll continue to try and perfect the execution.

This is one of those videos where I especially hope some are inspired to take the idea and run with it. Then, come back and share your incredible success with the rest of us. This is a fun jumping off point in regards to doing burgers inspired by other classic dishes. I can’t wait to see what you come up with. Enjoy!

For the burger (4):
1 pound ground chicken
1 1/2 tbsp coconut milk
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sambal chili sauce
1 tbsp bread crumbs
2 tsp soy sauce
3 cloves minced garlic
pinch of cayenne
For the peanut sauce:
Peanut butter thinned with a squeeze of lime, seasoned with more sambal or hot pepper
For the slaw:
1/2 cup grated or julienne carrot
1/2 cup grated or julienne cucumber
2 tbsp sliced jalapeño
2 tsp Asian fish sauce
1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Our #AFundForJennie Auction Closes with $550 High Bid!

They say every man has his price, but not every man gets to see that exact value calculated in public on a blog. The market has spoken, and apparently I'm worth exactly $550. Hey, at least that's more than I was appraised for by that carnival gypsy. Take that, Madame Corsi!

Thank you to everyone who bid, and also to those of you who made individual donations to #AFundForJennie at Bloggers Without Borders! Stay tuned as we'll identify the winner, and make plans for the shoot soon. Thank you all!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It’s Easy Being Green Hummus

This simple, basil-spiked “green” hummus is a great summer twist on everyone’s favorite spread. While making your own hummus is quite simple, as you’ll see, I completely understand why people don’t. Those big, ready-to-serve tubs at the grocery store are tempting when you’re party shopping and short on time.

But, if you do have an extra 10 minutes, and access to some fresh, sweet basil, this version will provide a great change of pace from the standard wake-me-up-when-it’s-over hummus recipes.

I didn’t mention it in the video, but as great a chip dip as this is, it’s also a world-class sandwich spread. Turkey on wheat? Yawn. Turkey on wheat with green hummus? Hello! And, don’t even get me started on wraps. I won’t even touch a wrap that doesn’t contain hummus, and neither should you.

Fresh basil should still be in good supply, and what better way to enjoy its fragrant flavor than this delicious dip? I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

1/3 cup packed blanched fresh basil leaves
1 (15-oz) can white beans, drained
1 (15-oz) can garbanzo beans, drained
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil (1 to start, 2 to finish)
salt and pepper to taste

Monday, September 5, 2011

End of Summer Peach Gelee – When Candy was Special

I was reading some comments under this peach gelee video on YouTube, and was shocked by the number of “omg! the sugar!!” type remarks. People, this is a candy, not a dessert. Candy is supposed to be an extraordinarily indulgent bite, enjoyed in small amounts only on certain very rare and special occasions.

Unfortunately, candy has lost its specialness, and somehow turned into a casual snack. We've gone from enjoying it at a couple sacred yearly festivals, to eating several handfuls a day. Let’s face it, the only reason you go up and chat with that receptionist is because she works behind a giant fishbowl filled with mini Snickers bars. Everybody knows.

Well, this fresh peach gelee is not that kind of candy. This is an old fashioned, handcrafted candy that takes a little time and finesse to pull off. It’s simple and sweet, but looks and tastes like something you’re only suppose to enjoy a few times a year.

I’ve never made this before, but saw an easy-looking recipe here, and tweaked it by using lime instead of the more traditional lemon. The recipe worked like a charm, and has me thinking about a late fall version using spiced pears. The method really intensifies the fruit flavors, and I find the jellied texture it produces very addictive.

Anyway, I hope you find some nice ripe peaches, and give this a try soon. If you’ve had experience making these types of gelees with other fruits, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks, and enjoy!

Step 1:
1 pound ripe peaches, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon lime juice
- Puree and add to sauce pan with 1/2 cup of sugar
- Boil for 15 minutes as shown
Step 2:
add 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons liquid pectin
- Bring to 200 degrees F. and cook for 10 minutes

View the complete recipe

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Happy Labor Day Weekend Pep Talk

Feeling a little melancholy this holiday? That’s okay, you’re not alone. Sure, this weekend is supposed to acknowledge and celebrate the labor movement in America, but what it does even better is remind everyone that summer is gone.

Wow, that was fast. It seems like only yesterday I was phoning in a Memorial Day post. But, before you get too down, remember, we are now entering prime cooking and eating season. From now until Christmas (only 112 shopping days left!), the kitchen replaces the beach, backyard, and ball diamond, as the center of our happy place. As much as we'll all miss that fun in the sun, this is any serious foodie's favorite time of the year.

Anyway, here’s a shout out to all the dishwashers, cooks, chefs, and other hospitality workers that celebrate Labor Day by working, while the rest of us sit around sipping beers, trying to figure out how summer went by so fast. Have a great holiday, and we'll see you on the other side. Enjoy!

Speaking of labor – if you’re still searching for some long-weekend-style lusciousness, here are six of my all-time, backyard favs:

Grilled Pineapple Pork Al Pastor

Garlic Ginger Grilled Salmon

Grilled Five Spice Chicken
Grilled Lemon Yogurt Chicken

Grilled Thai Red Curry Beef Flank Steak

Grilled Lamb with Honey Mint Vinaigrette

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fresh Tomato Gazpacho – Crumbled Stale Wet Bread Sold Separately

I feel kind of bad posting a recipe that leaves out what is arguably the most important ingredient, and such is the case with this gazpacho. This garden salad masquerading as a cold soup was originally a way for field hands to stretch their resources by crumbling up stale bread into a mixture of crushed tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.

Sorry, panzanella, but I’ve never been a big fan of the whole wet bread thing. Even versions I’ve had where the crumbs where completely pureed in, weren’t as pleasing to me as all-veg versions. Besides, some culinary traditions are simply leftover from a time when people had to do it that way, you know, so they wouldn’t starve to death. I call this the rutabaga syndrome.

Happily, most of us can now survive just fine without fortifying our gazpacho with such additions. Having said that, if you grew up eating that style, I’ll assume you think I’m insane for even suggesting there’s another way to make it, as you rightfully should.

Like I said in the video, this is not even worth trying unless you’re going to use some killer, end-of-summer, super-sweet tomatoes. After a long wait, we finally have some decent ones here in San Francisco. There just isn’t any substitute, so happy hunting, and I hope you find some so you give this a try. Enjoy!

4 large vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup minced green onion
1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch dried oregano
cayenne to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pint “Sweet 100” cherry tomatoes
1 lime, juiced, or to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
chiffonade of fresh basil leaves or cilantro

View the complete recipe